The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently heard from registered nurse members of National Nurses United (NNU) at a public stakeholder meeting. The nurses are calling for OSHA to pass regulations to prevent workplace violence in healthcare and social assistance settings – from hospitals to nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home health care.
“Registered nurses urge OSHA to act immediately to help protect nurses and all healthcare workers, as well as patients and families, from violence in healthcare settings—a serious problem for far too long,” said Jean Ross, a Minnesota registered nurse and co-president of NNU.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2014, 52% of all the incidents of workplace violence reported to the federal agency occurred against workers in the healthcare and social assistance industry. Moreover, these rates keep rising: Between 2005 and 2014, rates of workplace violence incidents have increased 110% in private industry hospitals.
Hospitals are not the only facilities seeing workplace violence. As we previously discussed, violence is among the occupational hazards that aides, nurses and others confront in the home health care environment. The home health care field is particularly vulnerable to workplace violence because services are provided to a cross-section of the community, and the care is provided within the community through working alone in a facility or in patients’ homes rather than within a contained structure. Many nursing home employees (nurses and others) also endure assaults during their shifts. These attacks often involve a cognitively impaired resident who physically lashes out at a worker during close contact activities such as bathing or dressing, according to the American Geriatrics Society’s Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging.
At the OSHA meeting, nurses provided examples of the type of violent acts they face, stressing that these types of incidents are preventable. “As registered nurses, we all experience the fear and insecurity when our employers are unprepared to handle violent situations or unwilling to do what is required to prevent violence from occurring in the first place. OSHA must act swiftly to create a robust workplace violence prevention standard, because every day we wait, healthcare workers are placed at extreme risk of physical violence and psychological harm,” said Allysha Shin, a California registered nurse.
In fact, California nurses in 2014 helped to pass the Healthcare Workplace Violence Prevention Act, and regulations were ratified late last year to realize the law’s goals. The act defines workplace violence broadly to encompass actual acts of violence as well as the threat of violence, and requires employers to develop a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan emphasizing prevention, training, and worker participation.
“It should be mandatory that [all] healthcare facilities have a preparedness plan in place to manage potential and actual violent situations to reduce the safety risks to nurses, other staff and the patient,” said Minnesota RN Nora Simone Jordan, who testified at the meeting. “Additionally, for this plan to be effective, staff would have input, receive interactive education and training, and rehearse it regularly so that we are purposefully acting—not just reacting—to manage workplace violence.”
A written program for workplace violence prevention, incorporated into an organization’s overall safety and health program, offers an effective approach to reduce or eliminate the risk of violence in the workplace. The building blocks for developing an effective workplace violence prevention program include: management commitment and employee participation, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training, and recordkeeping and program evaluation.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan Insurance Services specializes in offering insurance solutions for health care facilities, including for nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home health care agencies. We can also assist with implementation of risk management program to help mitigate workplace hazards, including violence prevention. For more information about our insurance programs, please contact us at 877.226.1027.